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OGA60 fleet: canals & the midnight sun

In this post we find members of the OGA60 Round Britain Cruise fleet and friends scattered from Orkney and the northeast coasts of Scotland to the west coast, in transit along the Caledonian Canal and locking up the Kennet & Avon in England!

Furthest north, enjoying the longest day and overnight sailing in the midnight sun are ‘Minstrel’ and ‘Susan J’ in Stromness, Orkney. The cover photo was taken by the crew of ‘Susan J’ rounding Cape Wrath on their passage north. Having left Orkney yesterday, we hear that ‘Onward of Ito’ has already arrived in Portsoy ready for the Traditional Boat Festival this weekend. Making swift progress south is ‘Cygnet of London’ with skipper and crew enjoying a Chinese takeaway onboard after a rather wet passage from Wick to Peterhead. Meanwhile, sailing north up the coast of Scotland, is a new member of the fleet recently arrived in Harwich from the Netherlands. ‘Windbreker’ enjoyed a short lunch break at anchor, going ashore at Holy Island after two overnight passages. Having set sail again yesterday evening they are now in Fraserburgh, also heading for the Portsoy Boat Festival.

We hear from ‘Molly Cobbler’, the most southerly member of the OGA60 fleet on passage to Suffolk, that she is making excellent progress along the Kennet & Avon Canal, now at the top of the Caen Hill section (29 locks rising 237 feet over two miles!) and feeling very pleased.

There’s good news at last for the group of boats waiting at Gairlochy Swing Bridge on the Caledonian Canal. ‘Hilda’, ‘Bonita’, ‘Moon River’ and ‘Indian Runner’ have finally been able to pass through and are enjoying their passage along along the Canal and Lochs of the Great Glen. ‘Swift II’ and ‘Barbarossa’ are waiting at Corpach for crew changes before making their transit of the Canal. The three smallest boats who stepped their masts last week are now all through the Caledonian Canal to go their separate ways: ‘Titch’ is being towed back to Suffolk and ‘Step Back in Time’ is sailing to Lossiemouth.

We left Inverness Marina around 0630. It was a cloudy morning with no wind, but once we got through the narrows at Fort George, the wind started to pick up in a south-westerly direction and we had a good sail, reaching speeds of between 5 and 6 knots, until the last couple of miles, when the rain started and the wind died. We arrived at Lossiemouth at 1400.

Sally Kiddle, ‘Step Back in Time’

Finally we got through the bridge at Gairlochy. The mechanism to open it is still broken but they devised a way to move it by jacking it up so a few boats could go through. There seemed to be lots of Scottish Canal staff there working on the problem with this venerable but troublesome bridge. We then had a fine journey down the canal. We had a fair wind and sailed down Loch Lochy and Loch Oich. Lock Oich is the highest point in the canal, about 100 ft above sea level. We had intermittent rain all day  with an exceptionally heavy rain squall on Loch Oich. However the scenery in the Canal is spectacular and we were pleased to be making progress at last. We are now at Fort Augustus, about half way down the canal, and on the edge of Loch Ness. The lock keepers go home at 5pm so we can make no further progress today

Mike Beckett, ‘Bonita’

Still enjoying the west coast of Scotland, ‘Lahloo’ reports:

From the lovely Tobermory we headed up Loch Sunart and called into the sweet little harbour of Salen, the best stocked shop ever, almost tempted to stay. An evening at anchor in Gometra off Loch Truath then on to the ever photogenic Staffa and Fingal’s Cave, overrun with people! ‘Lahloo’ then headed for Iona and its squat but historic abbey. We enjoyed an amazing afternoon with turquoise sea and downwind sailing to a beautiful anchorage. The forecast proved correct with very heavy rain and wind, in the morning it was gusting F7. Fortunately the only damage was a slightly torn ensign, which meant the sail repair kit came in handy although no red thread. We’ve seen plenty of repairs, but seem to be reasonably prepared and so far have managed OK.

Richard Bailey, ‘Lahloo’